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Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Iraq and Vietnam: an international perspective from National Catholic Reporter

With all due respect to National Catholic Reporter, there are differences between Vietnam and the war on terror.
First of all, dear NCR, the US did not "skip to battle" against ISIS.
That's a gross simplification of the US response to the war on terrorism, especially in light of the growth of the evil Islamic State.
"..realities that have brought us to this point as we skip to battle."

Vietnam was a tremendous waste of American leadership when the undeveloped country united behind successful efforts to defeat the US military. National Catholic Reporter's editorial staff raises the issue again. Did America learn anything from the Vietnam defeat?  In other words, in raising our military might against the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, the US is likely repeating the same mistake.

NCR writes: 

The Vietnam War ended on April 29, 1975. That was the day we watched the last Americans scrambling to climb aboard helicopters to flee Saigon. It was a stunning U.S. defeat.

The seeds of that defeat were planted years before, most notably on March 8, 1965. That was the day the first U.S. Marine combat troops landed in Danang, Vietnam. That action gave a civil conflict a global stage, forming Vietnamese patriots overnight. If we had only understood.

The drums of war are again beating loudly as a new threat -- the self-proclaimed Islamic State -- engages in a particularly vicious takeover of territory in Syria and Iraq. The U.S. is tempted once again to revert to a kind of reptilian revenge to assuage its anger over the unspeakable beheadings of two U.S. journalists and a British aid worker. We dance again with folly if we put aside the complex historic, social and religious realities that have brought us to this point as we skip to battle.


My husband is a Vietnam war veteran, having served in Chu Lai with the US Seabees. Also, we both visited Vietnam several years ago. No question about it, the Vietnam War was a huge defeat against the US military.  

Nevertheless, the Vietnam War was fought under the false premise of the invented risk to the world order, as in the "domino theory" of allowing nations to fall victim to an axis of communism.  

Iraq, Syria, the war against Al Qaeda and it's subsidiaries, coupled with the evil ISIS and another Khorasan Group (embedded inside all of the above) clearly raises the threat of a new world order ruled by terror. An international effort must be launched to destroy the root cause of this collective momentum.

NCR raises the right concerns. An increase in US military response to the war on terrorism, especially targeted towards Muslim groups, will unite the Islamic hate against this aggression.  

NCR continues:

Saudi Arabia, we are told, is now unnerved by the Islamic State phenomenon and its intention to create a caliphate, or political-religious state, across Syria and Iraq. We all are repulsed by the reports of beheadings in the name of an Islam that is actually a perversion of the faith.

The Islamic State, however, grows out of a strain of theology called Wahhabism, named after an 18th-century preacher and scholar, Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab. Wahhabism found a home within Sunni-dominated Saudi Arabia, where some of the most extreme forms of Islam are practiced. The laws of the Saudi state are, to put it mildly, draconian, and Saudi politics less democratic than that of our professed enemy, Iran. The Washington Post recently reported that according to Amnesty International, Saudi Arabia executed as many as 22 people within the space of two weeks last month, and at least eight of those were beheaded. Most of those executed had committed nonlethal crimes, and, said Amnesty, four members of one family were beheaded for "receiving drugs."

Are we kidding ourselves, then, in our selective moral outrage? Is this a case where images and American victims are necessary to provoke revulsion? Do we want to rush to another protracted military commitment where the slippery slopes are being polished and are headed toward "boots on the ground," and where another era of unintended consequences lurks in waiting?

Islam itself is looking for a new Middle East balance as Sunni and Shiite sects wrestle with crumbling ecosystems, vexing social unrest often caused by endemic unemployment, and theologies attempting to come to terms with modernity. The West cannot provide the answers. These need to come from within Islam -- and they will. Whatever chances moderate Muslims might have in leading the way to find these answers will only be undermined by Western intervention, which in turn will undermine our own security.

"I can only say that it is licit to stop the unjust aggressor," Pope Francis has said. "I underscore the verb 'stop.' I don't say bomb, make war -- stop him. The means by which he may be stopped should be evaluated. To stop the unjust aggressor is licit, but we nevertheless need to remember how many times, using this excuse of stopping an unjust aggressor, the powerful nations have dominated other peoples, made a real war of conquest."


Vietnam and it's people have repelled all aggression throughout it's long history. French  colonials warned the US to stay away from Vietnam after their nation was humiliated, following the  defeat at the Battle of Dien Bien Phu.  

In the war on terror, the current actions are hardly a "skip to battle". In fact, this war began on September 11, 2001, with a coordinated Al Qaeda destruction of the New York City World Trade Center, the death of the United Airlines Flight 63 passengers in Pennsylvania and the attack on the US Pentagon in Washington DC. Although the leader Bin Laden was eventually murdered as a result of the 9-11 attacks, the growth of Islamic extremism continues to threaten world peace. Growing Islamic extremist groups are intent on creating a world according to their power vision, whereby all infidels are assassinated.

Vietnam was a hard and expensive lesson for America's foreign policy. In other words, there was no "domino" threat. In the years since 1979, however, the Vietnamese people have become a vibrant nation with positive economic and social ties to the US.

In the growth of terrorism, there is no national identity, except for Islam extremism, associated with the affiliates of Al Qaeda, ISIS and their evil networks.

In all due respect to National Catholic Reporter, there is only one similarity between Vietnam and Iraq. Vietnam was launched without a real threat of a "domino" theory about the growth of communism. Similarly, in Iraq, the US "Iraqi Freedom" invasion was based upon the theory of destroying Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD), where none existed. 

Therefore, following this logic, it was US failed intelligence that led to both of these deadly wars. Consequently, it is an ominous assumption, but one we must be willing to accept, that the outcome of the war on terror could be the same as Vietnam.  

National Catholic Reporter's editorial is wrong minded, but could, unfortunately, be prophetic.

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